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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

India's ruling coalition consults allies on Presidential election, Arjun Singh, Motilal Vora are among front runners

By M Rama Rao - Reporting from New Delhi

New Delhi , 29 May ( Hectic consultations are on between the Congress and its allies on the choice for the President. Congress leadership is also taking advantage of the chief ministers here to attend a conference on power and the 2-day NDC meeting to broad base the discussions.

A final name is however expected to be made public in the first week of June. But a decision is likely to be taken in the next one or two days since the Left, which is the outside supporter of the UPA has already spelt its criteria for the selection of the next Rashtrapati Bhavan resident while the BSP, another outside supporter indicated its willingness to go along with the UPA decision.

Several names are being mentioned as front runners. Names of Pranab Mukherjee, Karan Singh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Shivraj Patil, are in circulation ever since the Prime Minister initiated the consultations with the Left leaders a few days back. As reported in this daily on Sunday, Motilal Vora is also said to be in the reckoning while other names being mentioned include former chief ministers, Arjun Singh and N D Tiwari, former Chief Justice RS Pathak, agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan and West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi.

Arjun Singh refuted the suggestions that he was in the race for the post of President. He said such issues were normally decided by the Congress High Command.

"I am not in any race. It is for the party to decide", he remarked when he talked to reporters after meeting M Karunanidhi.

The ball for consensus among UPA leaders was set rolling on Monday with DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Muthavel Karunanidhi meeting Congress President Ms Sonia Gandhi at 10 Janpath for about 25 minutes in the morning. Later, CPI (M) General Secretary Prakash Karat and NCP leader Sharad Pawar conferred with Mr Karunanidhi at the Tamil Nadu House.

From these discussions it is clear that the candidate will be a UPA nominee whom the Left will support. This more or less rules out Somnath Chatterjee, veteran Marxist and Lok Sabha speaker among the probables for the top job, which is falling vacant on July 24, when the five-year term of term of APJ Abdul Kalam ends. He was sworn in India's 11th president on July 25, 2002.

UPA-Left together with the BSP can ensure a smooth sailing of the candidate of the ruling alliance.

The Karat-Karunanidhi discussions lasted over half an hour. Pawar also spent half-an-hour with the DMK leader. All the three leaders remained tight lipped on the nature of their talks with the Marxist General Secretary merely saying that they discussed several issues of 'mutual interest'. Pawar said this issue (Presidential election) cannot be discussed with the media.

Other callers on Karunanidhi were Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh and CPI General Secretary AB Bardhan. The Tamil Nadu chief minister also met the Prime Minister.

Mr. Karunanidhi told reporters on his arrival at the airport that he would discuss the Presidential election with the UPA leadership. "I have come to Delhi to take part in the National Development Council meeting and also discuss the Presidential candidate with UPA leadership", he said.

His talks with Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are understood to have covered Sethu Samudram Project, Tamil development and law and order situation with particular reference to LTTE activities.

The Tamil Nadu CM will be coming to Delhi again next week.
Earlier reports from Chennai indicated that the DMK might insist on putting up its nominee for the Vice President's post. But these reports have since been denied by the DMK leaders.

-Asian Tribune -

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